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Physical Beauty and Advertising Relationship


Nowadays, physical attractiveness is one of the most significant criteria for assessing people. It has a robust influence on the process of socialization and significantly affects self-esteem and believing in individual specialness. In general, understanding physical beauty is a complex psychosocial phenomenon, which has its roots in the increased access to information and intensive advertising and marketing. In other words, it is mass media and advertisements that have a key impact on how people evaluate beauty and themselves.

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The rationale for choosing the relationship between physical beauty and advertising as the subject for further research is to prove that it is marketing that has a bearing on the image of physical attractiveness. The topic is interesting because mass media imposes significant pressure on millions of people around the world, who may not realize how deep this influence is and that it is deforming worldview on the subconscious level.

Following the hidden messages promoted in various advertising campaigns, people strive for losing their individuality and uniqueness in pursuit of becoming similar to those, whom they saw in mass media because they believe that the hyped image of physical beauty is the universal key to personal happiness and occupational success.

That said, the paper will focus on finding the answer to the following research question: What is the relationship between physical beauty and advertisement, and what is its influence on us as consumers? It aims at determining whether there is an interconnection between marketing and self-esteem and how physical attractiveness has become a product turning people into consumers and erasing their individuality. The paper will include two primary contexts of the subject under investigation – psychological and economic. The first one will study the effect of advertising beauty on self-perception while the second one will examine how a human body became a kind of investment project fostering the development of beauty industries.

Finding a comprehensive answer to the research question requires deploying various research methods. The conclusions of this paper will be based on such methods as case studies, qualitative analysis, identity/gender discourse analysis, and visual ethnography. A case study is a valuable research method because it helps investigate a chosen phenomenon in a real-life context (Roworth-Stokes 2006). Simply speaking, this tool will be appropriate for estimating the influence of advertising on the image of beauty and its effect on self-esteem and self-perception by studying the experience of real people, who have been interviewed and expressed their position regarding the issue.

Another research method, which will be used in this paper, is qualitative analysis. Its primary strength is that it helps detect the qualities of the subject under investigation. For the given research, this tool will be applied to analyzing the messages promoted by mass media thus increasing the latitude of the thesis. It can be utilized for tracing the changes in the perception of physical beauty and the formation of the belief that physical attractiveness is the key to happiness through dissecting the primary qualities of beauty (Wells 2014). One more research method is identity/gender discourse analysis.

This tool is often deployed for drawing the lines between non-visible factors and subjects under investigation (Sunderland 2006). In light of the proposed research, it will be used for determining the relation between advertising and the perception of physical beauty by analyzing the hidden messages pointing to male and female physical attractiveness. Finally, the last method that will be utilized is visual ethnography. It will become the tool for estimating the perception of physical beauty through studying visual advertisements in mass media and aggregating the image of perfect beauty by the recent media standards (Mattern, n.d.). Altogether, these research methods will be effective in finding a complete response to the research question.

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This thesis proposal will set the scene for further research. It will pay specific attention to the current state of research of the subject under investigation to detect possible gaps in the chosen topic and designate methodology for the study. The paper will focus on such themes as determining the concept of physical attractiveness and how it changed over time, estimating the trends in portraying physical beauty in mass media, evaluating the gender and age-related image of beauty promoted in advertising campaigns, the evolution of physical attractiveness as a product, and the interconnection between appearances and advertisement campaigns in light of psychological and economic contexts.

Literature/Subject Review

Understanding physical attractiveness is a complex psychosocial phenomenon, which has changed over time under the influence of various external factors. One of the most significant affecting factors is mass media, especially the advertisement sector, because it shapes the perception of beauty. In most cases, the process is subconscious and cannot be controlled. The primary area of concern of this paper is establishing the interconnection between the perception of physical beauty and advertising. This topic has become a subject of numerous studies, but most of them highlight that advertising has a powerful influence on the apprehension of beauty lowering people’s self-esteem and increasing their spending on changing their bodies surgically to match the image pushed by media.

The literature review will be based on several closely related themes. The idea behind writing it is to descend from the general trends in the concept of physical beauty to dissecting those imposed by advertising campaigns because it is believed that there is a direct relationship between understanding attractiveness and images promoted by mass media. Moreover, the review will provide some specific themes such as the specific features of age and gender-related image of beauty and studying the process of turning it into a commercial product. However, it will be done solely to determine the gaps in the current state of mind and identifying the issues for future investigation.

The concept of physical beauty is complex and multidimensional. However, in most cases, it implies that an individual is physically attractive and others view him or her as an example of the desired looks. Simply speaking, beauty is the condition of being pleasant to one’s eye (Brand & Korsmeyer 2013). Beauty is rather a range of features than a complete image. These characteristics have changed over time.

For example, nowadays, body size, muscularity, facial looks, skin color, and belonging to a particular social class are the determinants of beauty (Berrie 2008). In other words, the thinner and the whiter an individual is, the more beautiful he or she is seen (Yin & Pryor 2012; Berrie 2008; Figueroa 2013; Wells 2014). As of the class, it is believed that economic position implies the predisposition to beauty in light of having enough resources to provide a human body with expensive cosmetic care and change it surgically if necessary (Figueroa 2013). That said, beauty as a concept is constantly changing because it is based on subjective factors and promoting them.

The primary trend in literature on beauty is acknowledging the fact that nowadays, the perception of beauty is affected by mass media. The features mentioned above are imposed by advertising. In addition to it, there are various categories of beauty represented in media such as cute, sex-kitten, trendy, sensual/exotic, classic beauty/feminine, and girl-next-door (Yin & Pryor 2012; Lindstrom 2009; Mesaris 1997).

These types of beauty related to the portrayal of women in media. Similar classification emphasizes the fact that these are women, who feel the most significant impact of advertising on their self-esteem and often become the subjects of social stratification when they do not match them. When speaking of men, in most cases, their beauty is measured by muscularity while other factors such as body size, hair, etc. are ignored (Berrie 2008).

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Moreover, there is a trend towards establishing the anti-aging culture in modern society. The primary emphasis is always made on remaining young and fresh as long as possible. It gave impetus to the emergence of a wide range of anti-aging cosmetics and procedures (Benbow-Buitenhuis 2014; Yin & Pryor 2012).

All in all, mass media affects not only the perception of beauty pushing the image of a young, curvy woman or athletically built man as the master sample of beauty but also psychological and economic welfare because people tend to feel depressed when they do not match the promoted image and increase spending on changing their bodies by using cosmetics or falling upon plastic surgeries. That said, mass media turned a human body into a commercial product fostering the development of the beauty industry. Physical attractiveness has become a kind of investment project because people believe that if they look just like the characters shown in advertising campaigns, they will become happy always missing the fact that happiness in media is always scenic.

That said, the studies on the perception of beauty come to a similar conclusion emphasizing that physical attractiveness is a set of features promoted by mass media, which change over time. There is a significant gap between beauty standards for men and women because, in most, cases women become subjects to more requirements appeal. In addition to it, when people do not match the pushed image, they feel depressed and unhappy because this fact worsens their self-image. Low self-esteem can entail significant losses in life because people think that they are not worthy of well-paid occupations or the happiness of building a family.

In addition to it, advertising campaigns contribute to diminishing uniqueness because everyone strives for becoming similar to the same sample. Even though recent studies cover both psychological and economic aspects of beauty pointing also to social its implications, here is a significant gap in determining the feature of masculine beauty because most investigations focus on the portrayal of women in media and how the established image affects the perception of image beauty and theoretical approach towards understanding beauty. That is why these aspects could become the subject of further research.


This research proposal aimed at setting the scene for further research. Because the central objective is to determine what is the connection between advertising and physical beauty, it was determined that case studies, qualitative analysis, identity/gender discourse analysis, and visual ethnography are the most appropriate methods for answering the question. Conducting the literature review helped find out that there is a strong link between the perception of beauty and mass media and that beauty is a multidimensional psychosocial phenomenon.

However, the level of studying the theoretical aspect of determining the concept of physical attractiveness and the characteristics of masculine beauty is low forming a significant gap in the investigation of the chosen subject. So, these issues together with the emotional and economic contexts of the problem (other than depression and investing in making the body look attractive) should be taken into consideration when carrying out future research.

Annotated Bibliography

Benbow-Buitenhuis, 2014, ‘A feminine double-blind? Towards understanding the commercialization of beauty through examining anti-aging culture,’ Social Alternatives, vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 43-49.

The article centres on the statement that the modern society is driven by the desire to remain young as long as possible. It is motivated by intensive advertising of young women highlighting that age is another feature of beauty.

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Berrie, B 2008, The power of looks: social stratification of physical appearances, Ashgate, Hampshire, England.

The author of the book proves that beauty is the criterion for social stratification affecting all important decisions in life from employment to marriage.

Brand, P Z & Korsmeyer, C 2013, Beauty Unlimited, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana.

The authors study the evolution of the concept of beauty and the changing nature of the standards of beauty pointing to the fact that physical beauty is attractive not only to one’s eyes but also ears.

Figueroa, M G M 2013, ‘Displaced looks: the lived experience of beauty and racism,’ Feminist Theory, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 137-152.

The author claims that there are several dimensions of beauty such as race, body size, class, etc. The primary idea is that the image of beauty imposed by media negatively affects the lives of those, who do not match it because it makes them feel unaccepted by the society.

Lindstrom, M 2009, Buyology: how everything we believe about why we buy is wrong, Random House, New York, New York.

The author explores the primary myths regarding the effectiveness of advertising campaigns. As of beauty, it is pointed out that it is not always the most efficient advertising method because people do not like to see the gap between the way they look and what they see in mass media.

Mattern, S C n.d., Media research methods: ethnography. Web.

The author claims that ethnography is a problematic research method. However, it is perfect for analysing media contents. In this case, it is known as visual ethnography, which can be deployed for aggregating the images of subjects under investigation.

Mesaris, P 1997, Visual persuasion: the role of images in advertising, SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks California.

This book focuses on determining the relation between advertising and the image of beauty. It makes the emphasis on the fact that images in media affect the perception of attractiveness on the subconscious level. Stimulating particular emotions, advertising motivates the belief that beauty is the key to becoming happy and successful.

Roworth-Stokes, S 2006, Research design in design research: a practical framework to develop theory from case studies. Web.

The author speaks about the strengths and weaknesses of case studies with the aim of proving that they are effective supplementary research methods.

Sunderland, J 2006, Language and gender: an advanced resource book, Routledge, Abington, Oxon.

This book provides insight on numerous discourse analyses. It is a valuable source for understanding the specificities of this research method and applying it correctly to achieve the purposes of the study.

Wells, W D 2014, Measuring advertising effectiveness, Psychology Press, New York, New York.

The author centres his investigation on determining which tools are effective in advertising. Specific attention is paid to beauty stressing that mass media overestimates the role of being thin as the key determinant for estimating beauty.

Yin, B & Pryor, S 2012, ‘Beauty in the age of marketing,’ Review of Business & Finance Case Studies, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 119-132.

The article is a valuable theoretical background for understanding the concept of beauty because the authors speak about the influence of various factors such as tattoos, cosmetics, body shape, etc. on the perception of attractiveness.

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